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Q&A with IMS boss Tony George

NEWS STORY
13/07/2007

Tony George: Today I want to let everyone know that unfortunately, and to my great disappointment, Formula One will not be back next year, in 2008. And beyond that, Bernie and I had several discussions that led us to this decision and announcement, but we did agree it was prudent to try to leave the door open for the future. With that, the near-term communication is that Formula One will not be back next year, but it's my sincere hope that we'll have the opportunity to bring it back in the not-too-distant future.

The decision to bring the motorcycle race here, how much flexibility did that allow you to go with a strict number of what you'd be willing to pay, and not necessarily negotiate?
TG: The decision to not have a round of the World Championship here next year was considered totally independently of any consideration being given to having a motorcycle race here. It was strictly a business decision and there are a lot of factors that weigh into that, but it was a decision that weighed solely on that.

There is precedent for Bernie to not agree to a contract now and then suddenly add an event to the schedule later in the year. Is there a chance a USGP could still happen in 2008 here, or somewhere else in the country?
TG: I wouldn't have any insight as to whether there will be another round scheduled in the U.S. in 2008. I don't believe there will be, but that would be something that was arrived at without my being involved. I know a preliminary schedule had been released with Indianapolis on it. Again, my hope is for the future that we'll be able to bring all of the components that are important to a successful event together so that we can one day bring it back here.

How far off were the two sides on negotiations, and was the city of Indianapolis willing to offer assistance to bring it back here.
TG: There was no discussion to what financial contributions the city of Indianapolis might bring to the relationship. Clearly it's a business decision, one that we have to consider as an event, and one Bernie has to consider as part of their business and opportunity. Money is a factor. It's not the only factor, and it has some bearing on the decision. There are a number of things that I believe need to happen for it to be viable. It's a business opportunity. One, the promoter, in this case Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Formula One, has to provide leadership and a working relationship that includes a national broadcast partner, a title sponsor that will actively embrace and support the event, along with a number of other things. Those are important things that really have been lacking. It's not to say our relationship with Formula One hasn't been good, because it has. Bernie, personally, has been good to work with. In fact, I'm sure it will be a surprise to many, based on the reputation many consider him to have, he's a good guy to work with. I believe he's always been straight-forward and honest with me. I respect him and his decision to do what he has to do for Formula One as a whole.

The manufacturers, Honda, Mercedes, Toyota, they really value being in the United States. It seems like Nigel Roebuck and the boys were hopeful he (Ecclestone) would want to be your partner in this race. Was there any kind of discussion that maybe he would partner with you in this?
TG: There was some discussion about that, yes, in the end it's not what he was wanting to do and not the way we'd prefer to do this, but there was discussion about that. I think the manufacturers are another key element to achieving success. There are, I think, six engine manufacturers, five of which the United States is fairly important to their business. It's just a matter of all the elements coming together and being able to support and sustain an event here. In the United States, Formula One is not perceived the same way it is around the world, in central Europe, eastern Europe and Asia, and its just a tough dynamic. But I think the future will depend on recognizing the fact that the United States is a bit different, and we're going to have to figure out how to make it work.

Tony, you have worked so hard and invested so much in this facility to bring Formula One here. How disappointed are you personally?
TG: Obviously, I am personally disappointed. Eight years ago, it was our intent to host this event on an annual basis. While I still hold hope for the future that we'll be able to bring it back, its tough to have a hiatus like this, and I view it as such. I'm going to continue to work on this to try to bring it back to the best of my ability as soon as possible.

Do you know if you lost out to another country? Another bid?
TG: No, I think, again, it's a business decision for us, for Formula One. They have a lot of opportunities to consider, and I think they feel like they've made the fair assessment of this situation and the opportunities. If we're not on the schedule, there will probably be 18 races and they can go up to 20 races, so it's not like the music stopped and we didn't have a seat. We'll see, we'll continue to have a dialogue, but it's not fair to us, it's not fair to our customers, the loyal core of Formula One fans, to just go on indefinitely on hold while we try to decide if we're going to have a ticket renewal process, or what, for next year. So we just need to pull back and re-evaluate this situation and see where it goes from here.

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